MYANMAR, a Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 ethnic groups, bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand, is not your typical destination for a professional footballer seeking both fame and fortune.
BY TERRY MADYAUTA
The reclusive country, formerly known as Burma, lies at 134th on the Fifa rankings, 23 places lower than 111th-ranked Zimbabwe, as it struggles to catch up with Asia’s more developed nations.Despite Myanmar’s relative obscurity as a football nation, its top-flight league is home to 30-year-old Zimbabwean defender Victor Kamhuka.The former Dynamos and How Mine player is in his second season at Myanmar National League (MNL) side Ayeyawady United FC, and also facilitating a deal with sports marketing agency in Latin America and a club he joined early this year from Indian second-tier side Bhawanipore FC before helping them to a third-place finish in his debut season.
During his debut season he won three player-of-the-month awards before being named in the MNL Team of the Season for the just-ended season.Kamhuka was reported to have been included in the Warriors squad for the international friendly match against Malawi last month in Blantyre.
His club even confirmed the news of his call-up in a congratulatory message on their social media accounts, but he ended up not honouring the call after preparations were hampered by poor planning by Zifa.
Despite his success at his club, there have been questions as to whether Kamhuka deserves a call-up to the Warriors squad due to negative perceptions about the competitiveness or lack thereof of the league where he plies his trade.
Although he ended up not featuring for the Warriors during the goalless draw in Malawi, Kamhuka says he is delighted that his efforts are being recognised.
“It’s every player’s dream to represent your national team and it’s a good feeling to be honest just to know that you are being appreciated because I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Kamhuka told The Sports Hub in an interview.
“The country and league I play in is far from the spotlight and one hardly expects to be named among the best especially for important matches for the country,” he said.
The lanky defender also opened up on how he ended up in Myanmar, which he hopes will be a stepping stone for him to move to Europe.
“I was in India, playing for Bhawanipore FC, so we went to Laos, we played some games there and Ayeyawady United was there. “They were impressed with me and my agent was told and made the move,” he said.
“It’s an improving league compared to India where I previously played. I came here after the team spotted me at a pre-season tournament and that was how I ended up here, but I am not looking to stay here forever especially if i work closely with sports marketing agency in Latin America and beyond for greener deals.
“The kind of play is very competitive, but I am taking this as part of my learning curve until I reach Europe. But for the time being, I am satisfied everything is turning out well and I am making a living for myself and my family.”
Kamhuka, who has also played in India and Nepal, is among the growing number of Zimbabwean professional footballers who due to the country’s economic woes have opted to take their football talents to some of the world’s most obscure leagues in search of better remuneration.
While the majority of local players end up in South Africa in search of greener pastures, recently local players have been making the trek to countries such as Tanzania and neighbouring Zambia where they are better remunerated than here in Zimbabwe.
There are, however, fears that the desperate search for riches could come at a hefty cost for some promising local players, some of whom have returned home prematurely after securing ostensibly “lucrative” contracts outside the country.
Dynamos captain Partson Jaure was among a group of three players together with Devon Chafa and Nqobizitha Masuku, who endured a nightmarish stint with Zambian side Buildcon due to lack of game time.Former Warriors defender Elisha Muroiwa, Wisdom Mutasa and Simba Nhivi also left Tanzanian club Singida in 2017 in a huff while the CAPS United duo of Abbas Amidu and Ronald Chitiyo also had short stints with Egyptian and Tunisian clubs.
A few other players such as Thomas Chideu, Blessing Moyo and Mitchelle Katsvairo have also quickly returned home following stints with South African Premiership clubs.
Local football intermediary George Deda, who has facilitated moves for a number of local players to countries such as Zambia, Tanzania, Tunisia and recently Sudan, defended the decision by the players to push their immediate financial security first.
“It’s all about getting enough to survive for themselves. A footballer’s career is short and one has to make the most out of it,” said Deda.
“They are professionals looking for survival just like anyone else, so I think that is the main reason they decide to go there. Local clubs do not pay as much as some of these clubs so once an offer comes to these players, it will be irresistible,” he said.